Commentary | Letters: TAs strike, activism jargon debate rages on

Floh re-enters the jargon fray

Re: “A jargon-y defense of jargon?” | Commentary | March 31, 2008

Emilie Connolly partly misses the point. I don’t need to be schooled on the meaning of “racialized,” nor are the questions posed in my column necessarily my own. I also fully understand and support the Union for Gender Empowerment’s change in mandate. I’ve been absorbing this stuff for five years and I already go to activist workshops and events, regardless of the language on the poster.

As for whether a person unfamiliar with activist jargon might learn a lot from attending an event that looks terrifying on paper – maybe they would, but the reality of the matter is that they probably just wouldn’t go. Most people’s idea of an interesting, engaging evening doesn’t involve having their experiences and ideas deconstructed by a roomful of theory nerds. It doesn’t matter if this is what would actually happen if they went – the perception and fear is enough to make the event inaccessible.

I don’t think jargon should be done away with entirely. After all, where would academia be without it? However, not every potential activist is an academic. While academic discourse should flavour activism, it should not overwhelm it. It is 100 per cent possible to organize an action or an event compatible with complex ideologies without making it completely inaccessible to the public at large. Labour unions have been doing this for decades, for example.

And as for “refining one’s discourses and analyses,” that’s exactly what the vast majority of people on this planet don’t spend their Saturday nights doing. It’s disgustingly elitist to deny these people access to activist culture because they’re too busy working nine to five, taking care of their kids, and/or studying for their Ordinary Differential Equations final to try to wade through the dense prose of Judith Butler. Furthermore, it deprives a small leftist community of intelligent, capable individuals who might have had incredibly valuable ideas and work to contribute.

Floh Herra Vega

U3 Linguistics

Daily Columnist Emeritus

More on jargon, pt. 1

Re: “A jargon-y defense of jargon?” | Commentary | March 31, 2008

I’d like to thank Floh Herra-Vega and Emilie Connolly for shedding light on what I have always perceived to be an upsetting problem in McGill student politics and activism.

The original column makes an important point. Connolly’s letter embodies it.

Danielle Bakhazi

U4 Electrical Engineering

More on jargon, pt. 2

Re: “A jargon-y defense of jargon?” | Commentary | March 31, 2008

Thank you for providing an example of how information becomes inaccessible due to jargon. But this is not a matter of insulting or defending Cultural Studies hipsters and their use of pretentious language. Floh’s article has much more to do with relevant social issues.

Activists often radicalize the ways in which they promote their cause. These methods hinder the general public’s interest in and access to the issue being addressed.

For example, independent media groups provide alternative news and perspectives about events rarely covered by corporate mainstream media. If independent news outlets use a highly radical approach, they may risk losing touch with the general public. An opportunity to convey alternative ideas to the public is thus wasted; the general public continues to rely on corporate media and radical activists end up regurgitating information to those who are already informed on the issues.

Radical groups detach themselves and their cause from the general public when they use intimidating vocabulary and tactics. So, as Floh mentioned, it is understandable when people are discouraged to get involved in social activism when they feel unqualified to join.

If the goal is to provide the public with different ways of thinking and acting, activists should use methods that are accessible. Otherwise, many people will remain oblivious to the existence of alternative perspectives on issues. Essential information and ideas might then be restricted to the radical cliques.

Melody Lotfi

U1 Political Science

Admin dropping the ball

I am an undergraduate student who is upset about the handling of contract negotiations with AGSEM.

Instead of negotiating a contract that would both provide TAs and undergraduates with a better deal, this University has stalled the negotiations rejecting reasonable demands, such as TA training and monitoring of work hours and a normal pay increase, tied to inflation.

According to my knowledge of the negotiations, your negotiating team has even rejected measures that would legally protect both AGSEM and yourself. The actions of your team were imprudent and inconsiderate.

If contract negotiations fail, myself as well as most undergraduate students will feel compelled to blame this on your administration. In my three years at McGill, I have come to expect the worst from my administration and I am shocked that you would gloss over many issues including the nature of TA negotiations as you did in the email released today to the university community.

I ask you to acquiesce to AGSEMS’s demands and to discontinue your general trend of hassling student groups, which tramples the voice of students in this university community of which students and instructors are a vital part.

Jacob Feygin

U3 History

TA voices strike support

I hate strikes, and I stand to make less money if we strike, but I voted for the TA right to strike. I did this because “some TAs are doing OK, and some TAs aren’t” shouldn’t be such a big element in formulating our answer. It should be the question! The question for me is, what are we going to do about the fact that whenever McGill makes up marching orders, the first unwritten step is to continue to walk all over some of us? So I voted for the strike mandate, to give my executive the right to show McGill that card in our hand, but not because I’m in favour of any one item on our list in isolation, or any impact on me in isolation. I voted for the right to play that card because I’m against doing business as usual with an administration that’s been happy to be represented at the table by an empty throne.

I was shocked, but not surprised, that McGill stood up our bargaining team at those meetings, or that the dog ate their homework in the form of counter-proposals. I know what it’s like to try to get things done with McGill without McGill showing up! The thing is, I don’t want to just get used to it, and I don’t want to ignore the very serious problems some TAs are having, and I don’t want to pass it all on to the next round of TAs, which seems to be McGill’s tacit master plan.

That’s what the strike mandate vote was about for me – not any one item for any one TA in the short term.

Aaron Ricker Parks

MA Religious Studies

Last chance for students to weigh in on Caferama space

On Thursday April 10, SSMU Council will be discussing what to do with Room 103 in Shatner currently occupied by Caférama. We are looking at seven bids, three of which are student groups on campus. If you want to give any input on this decision before it happens, feel free to email pres@ssmu.mcgill.ca, operations@ssmu.mcgill.ca, or cs@ssmu.mcgill.ca or come to Council at 6 p.m. in the Lev Bukhman room of the Shatner building this Thursday.

Dave Schecter

U2 History and Biomedical Sciences

SSMU Councillor

Fuck the police

Re: “Et tu, brutes?” | Commentary | March 27, 2008

In a recent letter, a student addressed issues she had with the recent anti-police brutality demonstration, particularly with the angry nature of the demonstration and the vandalism of public property that occurred.

People who experience police brutality regularly do so as isolated, disempowered individuals at the hands of a group of people who are systemically sanctioned to realize justice on their own terms. Police brutality is an act of aggression against specific communities and anti-police brutality organizing is an opportunity to collectively resist violence otherwise experienced individually, although as a result of how those individuals are identified. For these reasons, anti-police brutality demos are justifiably “angry displays” of “hostile, anti-authorit[arian]” attitudes.

While members of non-targeted communities have a role to play in supporting these movements, it is not their place to dictate how these frustrations ought to be expressed. The people who “actually work in addressing and resolving police aggression” both organized and participated in the demonstration.

As to concerns surrounding vandalism of public property, it is important to remember that “public property” (handguns, cop cars, batons, prisons, et cetera) has been instrumental in the deaths of the 42 people who have died in the custody of the Montreal police in the last 21 years. This hardly engenders respect for that property or for symbols of police power. The resulting attacks on displays of this power, posing as public property, are appropriate aspects of the struggle.

To challenge the idea that protesters were not engaging in a discourse, we would point out that graffiti is a form of voice, and that the ”fuck la police” statement you walk by on your way to school is directly breaking the silence enforced by police violence. To be honest, it matters very little to us that bystanders felt “irritated or ashamed” by what was going on, because the issues at hand are larger than that.

Dave Howden

U0 Arts

Kira Page

U0 International Development Studies

Baby Lovin’ pt. 1

Re: “Genre-ally speaking” | Compendium | March 31, 2008

Dear Baby Mahoni,

Every week, around Thursday, I get really agitated. Why? It’s because I know that I have to wait all the way until Monday for a new Daily crossword puzzle.

Sometimes, on the weekend, I get really bored and try to do other crossword puzzles – like the New York Times puzzle (too hard), or a puzzle from a book (too bland) or even (don’t tell anyone) the Star magazine crossword puzzle.

But none of them do it for me. Even though I’ve only been able to finish a Baby Mahoni crossword original a meagre two times, there’s just something so fresh and entertaining about them. Maybe it’s your combination of outdated-yet-relevant pop culture references (Robert Redford movies, Pixies songs), mindblowingly-clever puns (episstemology), and arcane knowledge (i mean, who’s ever heard of ogees?), but there’s just no crossword like yours.

Please don’t graduate.

Marina Smyth

U3 Sociology

Baby Lovin’ pt. 2

Re: “Genre-ally speaking” | Compendium | March 31, 2008

Dear Baby Mahoni,

I really like your crossword puzzles. They are maybe my favourite part of The Daily. Even though I am rarely able to finish them, I look forward to them every week. I especially like the puns – like minivancouver.

My only qualm with the puzzles is that you always use the American spelling. Like putting just “o” instead of “ou.” Also, some of the words in the puzzle I don’t actually know at all. This can be challenging, but is not really a problem with the puzzle itself. If anything, it is helping to expand my vocabulary.

I hope you go on to create many more great ones, and maybe become rich and famous doing it.

Carla Risley

U3 Biology

More hilarious alien jokes

I would like to address the imminent problem which faces us. This is the problem of alien infiltration, specifically within the pages and staff of The McGill Daily. For example, the March 27 issue’s cover featured a (surprisingly accurate) depiction of one of the extra-terrestrial beings extending her pink “doom-tentacles” out towards the reader. The artist must have been dangerously close to death to have effectively illustrated this! The article on page five of the same issue about the coming alien landing was informative and well-researched.

The alien creatures do not want us to know that they exist! But we do! But we must pretend that they do not exist. That is why you, the reader, who is reading this letter, must now rip this letter out of The Daily and destroy it in one of two ways: either eat it whole, or rip it into small bite-size pieces and sprinkle it onto your pizza slice for easier consumption. In any case, the letter must be eaten!

P.S: The Beach Boys’ album Pet Sounds may be listened to backwards for further information on the coming attack. It may also be listened to forwards for the exact same information.

P.P.S: Get eating!

Devon Welsh

U1 Religious Studies

The year’s last Cornett letter

Many people now know that McGill is actually the “Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning” and that it has a pride that is matched by its sense of snobbery over other Canadian universities. But what are we to say when its notorious administration takes action to fire a professor while having no respect for Academic freedom? As we’ve seen through the barrage of letters and comments, ex-students are outraged at the unjust decision to relieve their beloved Dr Cornett of his duties. This man has taught generations of students to continuously strive for truth by actively embracing the human experience we call “learning.” His methodology may be unfamiliar to most stiff-necked academics because it taps motivation from our will to explore rather than using stressful exams to make people gulp knowledge by the bucket. This method of teaching is desperately needed in a place where getting a bachelor’s degree is another way of increasing a paycheck at the end of the year.

Thanks to Dr. Cornett, students have been able to approach difficult and controversial topics (Middle-Eastern affairs, death in palliative care, Quebec’s separation, etc.) with the proper tools and above all the right set of mind: openness to Truth. By firing Dr. Cornett, the administration has gone against this noble approach and has adopted naivety over openness, stupidity over wisdom and a dictatorial mentality over freedom. Indeed, acts such as these should make McGill students and teachers question our commitment to the “advancement of learning.”

Giancarlo Maiolo

U3 Biology

The Daily’s out for the summer! Email letters to letters@mcgilldaily.com.


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